Religious college students reported less alcohol consumption than non-religious students, which is partly influenced by how they see their parents handle stress, according to a new study by a Michigan State University professor.
With such an epidemic in binge drinking on many college campuses, Michigan State University professor Zaje Harrell performed the study that included 129 college students and 113 of their parents. Previous research has shown a significant relationship between religious coping and alcohol use, according to the study. Harrell set out to research how parental coping and religious behaviors influence drinking outcomes.
Harrell said in an interview with The Christian Post on Thursday, "I saw that the students that used religious coping stated, 'you should not need alcohol to cope with stress.' They had a more conservative view of alcohol than students who were not religious."
Religious coping through activities such as prayer and meditating by both the parent and student were associated with less frequent alcohol use and less heavy drinking, the study found. The study noted the widespread use of alcohol on college campuses, peer influence and positive expectancies associated with drinking were all contributing factors to the high rate of alcohol use.
One revealing finding of the study is the lack of the role of the religious community in students' handling of stress. "I think students may be doing the religious practices but not associating the social community of that institution as a place to go to when they have a stressor," Harrell said.
Harrell was also intrigued by how the parents coped with stress and the effect their coping had on their children. Primarily, the parents that used religious practices – such as prayer and meditation – when stressed had a direct impact on the way that their child coped with their own stress. "A lot of times parents do not realize the effect their actions have on their child's behavior," She stated.
Harrell advised, "Parents should think about the kinds of techniques or strategies that they use to manage stressful situations. Our study indicates that parents who use more contemplative and spiritual coping practices influence their children's behaviors related to stress. This could prove beneficial as children enter college and emerge into adulthood, particularly when it comes to risky behaviors like drinking."
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), of college students between the ages of 18 and 24 years old, 599,000 students are unintentionally injured under the influence of alcohol. And 97,000 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape. About 25 percent of college students report academic consequences of their drinking including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall. And 1,825 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes.